Zero Touch Networks: Hands-free agility
Contributed by Jose Carlos Mendez, Director of Product Marketing, Amdocs.
While we often hear about AI and ML enablement, it is less common to follow the multiple avenues of commercial successes that are created through intelligent automation. Zero-Touch Networks is the name of this new network game.
What is Zero Touch and how is it pushing the industry forward? AI has enabled a lot of innovation, as well as opportunities for CSPs, enterprises and consumers alike. Pushing the boundaries of possibilities for the future of connectivity and the commercial services on market.
The coming of age of zero-touch networks
Networks are finally growing up. Traditionally, each component would require careful attention from experts and specialized engineers to ensure full functionality. Meanwhile, the concept of zero-touch remained simply a dream. Today, the evolution of network technology has reached a level of maturity where the concept has become almost a reality.
Indeed, almost six years after European standards organization ETSI’s Zero-Touch Network and Service Management (ZSM) Industry Specification Group became active, multiple stakeholders are now joining forces to significantly advance this journey.
What is zero-touch?
In its purest form, zero-touch networks seek to enable self-configuration, self-monitoring, self-healing, and self-optimization of a network without human intervention, allowing communications service providers (CSPs) to deliver and maintain differentiated services while reducing cost and increasing profitability.
An increasingly viable goal
For CSPs, the rapid changes overtaking our industry are creating a host of challenges:
- Customers, whether consumers or businesses are demanding agile digital experiences with fast, flexible interactions, whether at pre- or post-sale stages
- As networks evolve towards openness, disaggregation, and programmability, it’s creating increased levels of complexity that challenge existing operations
- With revenues remaining mostly flat – and even declining in some mature markets – its creating a need for additional investments to support growing data consumption and demands for ubiquitous connectivity
At the same time, these challenges have created an opportunity to radically change the way these players manage their networks and services. To capitalize, it requires them to acquire intent-driven, closed-loop automation capabilities across multiple services and network domains, all of which must occur across the entire lifecycle through design, orchestration, operations, and assurance.
AI: the gateway to zero-touch networks
Clearly, achieving fully autonomous networks will not happen overnight. Indeed, according to TM Forum, it’s a journey that needs to take place progressively, across six autonomous levels. Based on recent analyst surveys, most CSPs are currently in the midst of Level 2 – a partially autonomous network, with automation covering the basic execution of specific, predefined repetitive subtasks (e.g. scripts) up to more sophisticated closed-loop operations and maintenance for a few specific domains, based on AI modeling.
To achieve the final goal of a fully autonomous network (Level 5), CSPs still need to develop additional areas, including data quality and standards alignment across automation systems, to which data-driven machine learning (ML) and AI will be key. Furthermore, for the successful handover from human to AI-enabled service and network operations, the process will need to be gradual, and one of trust-building.
As an example, compare the way vehicle manufacturers are gradually introducing various levels of autonomy in pursuit of a fully autonomous car, such as driver assistance, partial driving automation and so on. Just as no car manufacturer would launch a fully autonomous vehicle to market before having complete confidence in the technology, no CSP will embrace fully autonomous networks until they achieve a similar level of trust.
Ultimately, however, as AI manages more automation processes safely and efficiently, such trust will be earned, and the need for human supervision will decline. And as AI-powered automation begins executing tasks on behalf of humans, CSPs will benefit from its proactive predictions, recommendations, and decisions based on existing data and patterns.
Leading the industry in network automation
Amdocs Zero-Touch Networks is an advanced, innovative solution that combines Amdocs’ market-leading service and network automation products with key services that support the CSP automation journey. Leveraging AI-powered closed-loops, the solution harnesses intent-driven automation to deliver superior business outcomes for CSPs’ customers while reducing operational costs – with all the agility associated with vendor neutrality.
With a range of automation capabilities supporting use cases at distinct levels, Amdocs Zero-Touch Networks empowers CSPs to build their trust in automation. These range from domain- and process-specific use cases, such as RAN optimization through xApps and rApps hosted by the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), all the way to end-to-end, cross-domain use cases like 5G network slicing management supporting differentiated slice-based services. And because they leverage Amdocs’ domain knowledge and experience, all use cases are backed by proven field experience, while providing demonstrable quantifiable benefits, freeing CSPs to focus on generating value through innovative, revenue-generating services.
This article was originally published on the Amdocs website here on the 13th of February 2023.